VARANASI PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK
VARANASI, INDIA. BEST PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK IN THIS HOLY CITY.
Varanasi is the spiritual capital of India, and home to some pretty incredible food. When we travel, we make it our mission to seek out the best food a place has to offer. Varanasi was no exception.
Despite only spending 5 days in this holy city, we found some amazing Indian food tucked away in the ghats, alleyways and streets beside the holy river Ganges.
Like the true saints we are, we gorged ourselves on dosas, thali sets and lassis, all for your benefit!
Though our list is short, we have only included the places that we genuinely feel are actually worth it. We have visited all of the places below multiple times.
So, here are our favourite places to eat and drink in Varanasi. Some are hidden gems, and others are absolutely delightful, despite being much more well known. Happy eating.
This famous, hole in the wall lassi shop, is notoriously one of the best places to get this tasty Indian yoghurt drink in the whole city. A quick Google search will show thousands of results; this place is very well known!
Having only just tried lassi ourselves, we were eager to try more. Our search for the best lassi in all of Varanasi led us to Blue Lassi. This shop is amazingly popular, and for good reason; their lassi really is the best in Varanasi (we may have peaked a little too early with our second ever lassi being potentially the best we’ll ever have)!
Hidden down a tiny, narrow alleyway, this tiny shop is always busy. With just a couple of wooden benches inside, this place is generally crammed full both foreigners and locals alike. Each of the walls is plastered with hundreds of photos of previous customer’s faces. They are all tiny, mugshot-style passport photos (so make sure you bring one along if you want your face forever on the wall).
On our first visit, we were there with three other groups of Westerners, and one group of locals. It was 3 in the afternoon. We squeezed into the tiny shop, and sat on the wooden bench behind the vendor as he prepared lassi after lassi. Sitting on a small cushion on the ground, the vendor faces out into the small alley as he prepares the lassis.
After perusing the menu for a good 5 minutes, I settled on a papaya and coconut lassi, and Danielle went for a coffee one. We waited patiently for our delicious yoghurt drinks.
As the vendor prepared our lassis, monkeys from the low hanging rooftops kept creeping in to steal the fresh fruit used in the lassi. The vendor’s preferred method of scaring them off seemed to be pinging elastic bands in their direction, with just a mere glimpse of one quickly sending them back off into the rooftops.
The lassi here isn’t just tasty, it looks incredible too. Served in a small, orange clay pot, these works of art are topped with fresh fruit, pistachio and any other topping depending on what flavour it is. The thickness of the yoghurt, along with the fruit inside, makes it possible to eat the entire thing with the tiny wooden spoon that comes with it. You’ll also get a little aluminium tray under the pot, to catch any goodness that spills out as you eat.
The menu consist of (unsurprisingly) just lassi. However, there are many, many varieties of lassi here. Each page contains another flavour with multiple options, with pages for: mango, strawberry, blueberry, papaya, coffee, banana, coconut, chocolate and more. Every flavour has a multitude of combinations available, all of which are priced the same.
This place is a little hidden. It’s about a 5 minute walk down some very narrow alleyways, just off the Ganges from the Nepali ghat (not too far from Niyati Café – one of our favourite Varanasi places to eat). As you walk toward it, locals will probably help you out and point you in the right direction. When we were there, there was some construction work going on nearby, meaning that a lot of the alleyways on Google maps and maps.me didn’t actually exist. So, the best approach would be to come here from the river, that way you won’t get lost!
No matter what flavour combination you order, they are all priced the same (expect ‘saffron’ flavour – that is 120 rupees): 90 rupees (about $1). You could order a banana & chocolate & coconut lassi, and it would cost the same as a plain one – just 90 rupees. Bargain!
We think that’s pretty cheap considering that when we order lassi with a meal in a restaurant, it can be in excess of 120 rupees (depending on where we are), and this is potentially the best lassi ever!
A little bit of a walk from the main tourist area around the Ganges and the ghats, this all vegetarian café specialises in (as the name suggests) Southern Indian food. With a small menu consisting of mostly dosa, this restaurant is a great place to get a (you guessed it…) dosa. The dosa here is, by far, the best dosa I’ve ever had. So good!
Situated on very busy, main road, this place is absolutely filled with locals at all times of the day. We went for lunch and dinner, and even at 3.30pm in the afternoon, this place had just one table available. However, on both of our visits here, we were the only foreigners in the restaurant, despite the place being packed full of locals.
Unlike a lot of the other places on our list, this place is absolutely huge. Around every corner, the restaurant just seems to go on even further.
This is a typical sit down restaurant, with wooden tables and chairs, and booths to fit up to four people on the right hand side of the restaurant as you walk in. We just walked in and sat down at the table of our choice, and a very friendly, smiling server came over to give us menus and take our order.
On our first visit here, I ordered the (most expensive) “nawa onion masala dosa”, and Danielle ordered her favourite: chole bhature. My dosa was definitely the best I’ve ever had to date. Folded into a triangle shape, this wasn’t a regular rolled dosa. Inside, the pancake was lined with diced, fresh onion, and folded into the centre was a spiced, potato (and swede?) patty. It was incredible. It was also served with two small ramekins of sauces, which the server came around to fill up once I had emptied them.
Danielle’s chole bhature was also incredible (but also incredibly spicy!). We also tried a few other dosas which were equally as delicious.
Cheap. Really, really cheap. Both times we ate here, we spent less than 200 rupees for both of us with a drink. The most expensive thing on the menu (chole bhature) is priced at 90 rupees, and the most expensive dosa (nawa onion masala) is 85 rupees. There is also drinking water on the table if you’re on a super budget and don’t want to pay for a drink (you’ll need the water – some of the things on the menu are super spicy).
Despite having a very small, one-page menu, the food here is awesome. We are firm believers that the best food is always found in places with a small menu, or restaurants selling just one thing. It means that they do it well! A place with a specialty is always better than one with hundreds of mediocre things on the menu (our least favourite place to eat is a “multi cuisine” restaurant – of which, there are loads in Varanasi. Even some of our favourite Varanasi places to eat have a “multi cuisine” section on the menu, but we tend to avoid these at all times. Instead, we just go for the recommended specialty or quite simply: any local food. We never order pizza or pasta in restaurant that specialises in awesome local food.)
So, anything on the menu here is great. We both tried a few different dosas, and the chole bhature. All of it was awesome.
Away from the main tourist area and the river. On the corner of two very busy and loud main roads (it may take you a few minutes to find a break in the traffic and manage to get across the road), further into the city from the river. Easy to miss if you’re not looking out for it, as it is a little set back from the road. Lots of signs on the front though, so shouldn’t be too difficult to miss if you’re keeping an eye out for it.
This all vegetarian, modest café is absolutely tiny, but so unbelievably good. This was definitely one of the best Varanasi places to eat. Here, we both had one of the most incredible thali sets we have ever eaten, and an amazing lassi to go with it!
Tucked away down a very narrow alleyway, this unassuming little café almost seems to blend in with the walls. The brown and white signage painted on the outside is the only thing that gives it’s position away. When we initially walked past, we almost missed it completely. Luckily, we caught a sight of it at the last moment, and jumped in through the small sliding door.
With only four tables inside, this place fills up fast. At both lunch and dinner time, you’ll be sharing this tiny little room with dozens of others. When we first ate here, we were the third table in the room at 11.30am. After we finished our meal an hour later, the whole place was full, with each table being shared with 2 different sets of couples (and a group of people waiting patiently outside in the alley).
Sitting in the tiny restaurant almost feels like sitting in someone’s living room. The kitchen is just behind the thin, translucent sliding doors. Inside the kitchen, the family is hard at work, preparing and cooking the ridiculously good food that you’re about to eat. The food does take a little longer to come out (around 30 – 45 minutes, depending on how busy the place is), but this is just proof of how fresh it is.
A little unsure of what to order on our first visit, we both went for the veg. thali set. And boy are we glad we did! Having been in Nepal and India for 8 weeks now, we have both tried our fair share of thali. But, we both agreed that this one was (by a long way) the best one we have eaten so far. Every element was unbelievable. The amazingly friendly server even came back in to make sure we were enjoying it, and to offer us more chapati!
We also both tried lassi for the first time here, and that too was delightful. The perfect drink to accompany a plate full of curry! We enjoyed our lassi here so much that we went on a search for Blue Lassi (more on that above) after, to get another fix for our new found lassi addiction.
This place was so good that we actually ended coming back the next day. We walked for nearly an hour from our hostel just to get another taste of the incredible food Niyati café has to offer. Needing to try something new off of the menu, this time we also ordered onion pakodas to accompany our thali sets. They too were, unsurprisingly, out of this world. I think it’s safe to say that the food here is magical.
This place is cheap. One veg thali will set you back just 150 rupees ($2), and this will be more food than you can physically eat. The special thali is just 225 rupees, and you could reasonably share this between two people.
Other curry dishes are around 100 – 200 rupees each, various fresh breads between 10 – 40 rupees, and a lassi is just 60 rupees.
Just a few minutes walk away from the main ghat, at the northern end of the ghats. Just off of the main, busy street, and a few hundred metres down a narrow alleyway. It’s much more quiet here than anything on the main street, but still a little loud during the day.
Although there is Western food (pizza, pasta) on the menu, we didn’t try any of it. We came here for the curry! So, whilst we can’t comment on how good it is, if it’s anything like the Indian food, it’s probably awesome. Our personal recommendations would be to stick to the curries and thalis though, as they are just too good to miss out on.
There’s also a breakfast section if you’re after something early in the day (or it’s just too early for curry – we totally get it).
Another of the Varanasi places to eat that we came back to after having an incredible thali set, this restaurant does a delicious special thali.
A very short walk from the river at Assi Ghat, this delightful little all vegetarian café is just up a few flights of stairs from the Ganges. Completely painted blue, and with a bright rainbow stripes across the entire front of the café, it is not easy to miss it when walking past (it is also lit up with hundreds of fairy lights at night).
As you walk in, there is the option to either sit outside, or sit on cushions on the floor inside. The chairs in the outside seating area are plastic, garden style chairs. If you opt to sit indoors, you’ll have to take your shoes off and leave them at the steps before going in.
Both times we ate here, we sat inside as there was no space outside. This isn’t the busiest restaurant on our list of Varanasi places to eat, but it still had a few groups of people eating there both times we went.
On our first visit, we ordered the special thali. It was so good that we came back again the next day, just to get it again.
This thali set is huge! We both shared one, and were completely stuffed afterwards. There was so much food, we actually struggled to finish it.
There are so many different curries, breads and even sweets on the plate (we actually had a banana, a cake and an Indian style rice pudding (kheer) on both occasions). This special thali set is a great way to taste many different varieties of Indian curries in one sitting.
Our special thali cost us 400 rupees. This seemed quite high, but this was between the both of us, and we actually were super full after finishing it. It was so much food. A regular veg thali will set you back 150 rupees.
The other curries on the menu were very reasonably priced, between 100 rupees for a dhal fry, and 200 rupees for some other, more expensive paneer curries.
All the usual Indian fare is available on the menu. My personal recommendation is (obviously) the special thali. there are other curries on the menu, but we didn’t try any of these as the special thali was just too good to pass up. They also do eggs and other breakfast items if you’re fancying some western style breakfast.
Just a few steps away from the river at Assi Ghat. Up a couple of flights of stairs, right at the top. It’s not easy to miss, as the front of the café is completely painted blue, with rainbow stripes. At night, the restaurant front is covered in hundreds of tiny fairy lights.
GOOD COFFEE – THE MARK’S CAFÉ
This place does great coffee, and it’s cheap! Only 70 rupees for an Americano.
This café was just around the corner from our hostel, so was our go to spot for a good, strong coffee in the morning. There is also an extensive food menu, with western style breakfasts and sandwiches on the menu. They also serve meat and eggs, much unlike most of the other places around the Ganges.
However, the down side to this café is the food. We ordered breakfast here once, and were really disappointed. All of it was cold, and there were flies in the food. So, this isn’t one of our recommended Varanasi places to eat. We wouldn’t recommend coming here to eat breakfast, just have a coffee on the balcony and watch the world go by below!
OUR PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR
LAPTOP – Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch
SMALL CAMERA – Olympus OMD- E-M10 Mark II
ZOOM LENS – Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm Lens
DSLR BODY – Canon 60D
WIDE ANGLE LENS – Sigma 10-20mm Lens
DRONE – DJI Mavic Pro
ACTION CAMERA – GoPro Hero 7 Black Edition
MICROPHONE – Rode VideoMicro
CAMERA BAG – Lowepro Fastpack 250 AW II
So, that concludes our list of Varanasi places to eat and drink! We hope you found something useful in here, and aren’t feeling too hungry after reading all about the delightful curry there is on offer here.
If you’re heading to Delhi, read about our Delhi food tour here. If you’re heading to neighbouring Nepal, check out our in-depth guide to the Everest Base Camp trek here, and all about paragliding in Pokhara here. We’ve also compiled a list of the best things to eat and drink in Nepal!
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